Summer in the You Beaut Country (1962) National Gallery of Victoria
So my heart should have been gladdened at the news that as part of the Art Series Hotels, an Olsen Hotel is due to open just around the corner from me, in South Yarra, on 16 March.
The Art Series Hotels (leaving aside the name, which sounds like a Leeuwin Estate wine from the Margeret River) are high concept indeed. The idea is that an artist will lend his or her name to the hotel, which will be designed to 'showcase their art' and be furnished in the spirit of and to reflect that artist's style and character.
So far, there is a Cullen Hotel in Prahran (artist Adam Cullen, now 43, is sometimes called an enfant terrible (always a bad sign) who paints what he describes as men and women from 'Loserville') and soon to be a Blackman (as in Charles Blackman) in St Kilda Road Melbourne.
Blackman is perhaps best known for his Alice series of paintings from the 1950s. He is now over 80:
'Feet beneath the Table' 1956 National Gallery of Victoria
The Cullen Hotel has been completed for about a year. Here is an example of Cullen's work - the portrait of actor David Wenham for which he won the Archibald Prize in 2000:
The Cullen is nothing short of ugly on the outside but some of the rooms look interesting - I have that little crystally stool thing (well a knock off anyway) at home:
This is all a bit challenging for me. I simply can't decide whether I love or loathe this idea. On one view it brings these artists (whom some may consider operate in the more elite sections of our society) into a mainstream area, and exposes their work to many who may not otherwise see it.
On another view, is an 'Art Hotel' lowering the tone of such wonderful art, or devaluing its currency? Perhaps it is just an acknowledgement that today, art, like everything, indeed like people, is now all just a brand, to be bought, sold, partnered, diffused, brought down market then elevated again, or otherwise exploited. What's next - the Angelina Jolie Amanresort in Namibia?
Or perhaps it is just none of my business. Maybe it is high time that these artists who are perhaps not as accessible as they could or should be, get their moment in the sun. And I for one would never deny them that.
Here is a rendering of the hotel once complete (architects Rothe Lowman, who designed the extension to our house as it happens):
Here is a bedroom - you can see behind the bed some characteristic Olsen squiggles.
Final thought - that well hidden entrepreunerial side of me thinks: good on you Will Deague for having such an original idea, and the courage of your convictions to actually follow it through.